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Berkeley Man's Body Found in Burning Car in Los Angeles Neighborhood

Jose Alberto Martinez, 26, was found in his Lexus around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

A 26-year-old Berkeley man's body was found by firefighters in a burning car in Sylmar, police and the coroner said today.

Jose Alberto Martinez was the registered owner of a blue 1993 Lexus that was found burning around 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a secluded dead-end section of Harding Street near Foothill Boulevard, under a pedestrian bridge, according to Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angles Police Department's Mission Detective Division.

He was found sitting in the front seat, and it appeared he "had bled a great deal" before the fire, Vernon said,

Martinez was not shot, as had been previously thought, but his cause of death has not been determined, Vernon said, adding that the car was torched to destroy evidence of the man's homicide.

"The fire was started to cover the crime, but not to kill him," he said.

The smell of gasoline was apparent at the scene and much of the car's interior was destroyed, the lieutenant said.

Detectives and fire department arson investigators who canvassed the area looking for clues found witnesses who reported seeing a person running across the pedestrian bridge just after the fire started, he said.

Martinez was not a student and had no criminal record. He carried a state-issued security guard card, Vernon said.

Anyone with information that could aid the investigation was urged to contact Detective Ryan Verna of the Mission Division Homicide Unit at(818) 838- 9976. Anonymous tips can be left at Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or www.LAPDOnline.org (click on webtips).

--City News Service

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